Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Three Big Words, Four Little Words: My Seven Word Curriculum Plan

I am now more than half way through the second week of my two-month Residency in String Games, teaching 80 first graders, 80 second graders, and 100 third graders how to do string figures. I have each class (eleven classes!) for three 40 minute periods each week.

As part of a personal exercise in curriculum development, I chose not to write lesson plans for any of the classes. I've had so much experience teaching string games to all the primary grades that I knew I could wing these introductory weeks, and I knew what vocabulary and skills I needed to put into place to sow the seeds for later plans I hadn't really detailed out yet in my mind.

Ambidexterity is a big word that I introduce in all my string classes, and I've developed a clear way to communicate the idea of the brain development facilitated by bilateral activity: I explain to the kids that when I say, "Eyes on me," one of the calls I use when the class has been engaged in a practice session and I need their attention, what they need to do is look at my left eye--I point to it, and explain a bit about how I lost my right eye in an accident. Then I talk about how it's really not a big deal, because the eyes are wired differently from much of the rest of the body--each eye connects directly to the vision centers in the brain, and they can see by just putting a hand over one eye that the world doesn't really look much different with only one eye. I'll often talk a little about depth perception, and how I make mistakes several times a week about how big something is or how far away it is, but it's not that hard to figure out the mistakes--moving your head a little is almost the same as binocular vision.

But think about how different things would be if you had only one hand, or arm, or leg.

Most of the bilateral parts of the body are each wired to the opposite side of the brain, so bilateral activity, and especially manual ambidexterity, creates new pathways across the two hemispheres which can then be used for other connections between the ordered and the intuitive sides of our mental capacity.

That's the first big word I teach the kids. The other two are "Repertoire" and "Portfolio." I start almost immediately talking about how they each need to keep a mental checklist of their personal string repertoire, because they're all going to be helper teachers, and we as a class need to know what they can each teach us. And as we go on learning more and more, I'm going to be asking them to create a Portfolio that shows what they know. I had first thought of manila folders or envelopes for each student, and then I remembered how we used to take large pieces of construction paper and fold them to make student folders.

Our four little words for the two months are:

  1. Circle
  2. Sequence
  3. Cycle
  4. Spiral

I'll write more about what the plans are around those words soon...

Here's a worksheet I developed for seventh graders--there will be quite a different format for the primaries!

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